Damask/Brocade Fabric

Syrian made textiles have hundreds of names each with different variations.

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Brocade and damask fabrics have long histories, being used for opulent formal garments and as decoration since before the 12th century. Both fabrics are woven and are produced today using Jacquard looms, which automate the process and allow the production of very intricate designs in the fabric. Before the invention of the Jacquard loom, the designs were produced by hand, making the fabrics very expensive.

Historically, damask was originally a technique woven in China and this technique spread to the Middle East.

It is thought that the skill of making this beautiful style of fabric travelled to Damascus, a city of Syria.  Textile history suggests that the fabric was taken from Damascus into Europe by the Crusaders and this is how it gained the name Damask.


Brocade is a richly textured fabric produced on a Jacquard loom using lustous fabrics such as silk or satin. The patterns in brocade are generally woven into the top of the fabric surface, creating a slightly raised design. Contrasting colors or metalic threads are usually used in order to make the pattern stand out even more from the background fabric.

The term brocade is also used for the technique of weaving such fabrics. As the ground weave is being formed, suplementary nonstructural weft threads, which do not extend from selvage to selvage, are introduced as needed to form the pattern. The effect resembles embroidery, and indeed brocading, a term whose derivation from the latin brocare (to pick) suggests needlework, is often defined as "embroidery weaving" or "loom embroidery".


Damask is a woven fabric which is self patterned.  In simple terms it is a satin weave and the patterns has a reversible positive/negative image.  It relies on the play of light to give dimension to the pattern which is subtle and rich at the same time.  One side of the damask cloth always has a darker face than the other.

Like brocade, damask is produced on a Jacquard loom from rich, heavy fabrics. However, the patterns in damask are created using a different method, which produces a subtle design in the same color as the background fabric. The patterns are woven directly into the fabric by contrasting matte yarn in the weft (threads going across the loom) with very lustrous yarn in the warp (threads going down the loom). This creates a subtle, reversible pattern that is enhanced by light falling on the fabric.

 The satin formation in a damask fabric creates areas of motifs rather than one large expanse of lustrous sheen as seen in a regular plain satin. The pattern is created when light falls on the damask fabric. The light reflects off areas of visible arranged fabric warp threads which look shiny against visible weft threads which look dull within the weave.

The Damask weave is created by allowing the warp yarn (flowing down), to float over a greater number of weft yarns (flowing across), than in a basic satin fabric weave.  In addition the warp yarns used to make damask fabric, are selected to be a very lustrous form of the yarn.  Damask fabrics use a silky lustrous warp of either silk, lustrous cotton, rayon, polished linen yarns or modern high lustre polyester yarns.

During weaving the floating warp has to be caught down and taken to the other side of the fabric making the weft become visible until the warp yarn is brought through again. This creates fabric pattern which is also reversible.   The fabric usually uses a thicker matt yarn for the weft and so the weft lines running across show up as pattern against the smooth satin areas of the shinier warp yarns.  Because many of the weft yarns are also longer in the intricate pattern arrangement, they show up in the reverse face pattern as long matt ridges. 

Damask weaves need to be made of a high number of threads per inch to be sturdy. The number of threads per inch is called the count of fabric.  The higher the count the more compact the fabric and the less likely loose threads will pull out and snag.  Double damask weaves produce the finest results, but the technique is more costly.


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